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Saturday December 10, 2011No. 17 Gators Bid for Final Four Falls Short in 3-1 Loss to Third-Seeded Fighting Illini

Gainesville, Fla.

Unseeded Florida’s run towards the Final Four came to an end on Saturday night, as the No. 17 Gator volleyball team fell in four sets (22-25, 25-23, 14-25, 20-25) to third-seeded Illinois in the NCAA Championship regional final hosted by the Gators. With the win, the Fighting Illini advance to the Final Four for the third time in program history. Florida finishes the year at 27-6 and reached the regional final for the first time since 2005.

 

The Gators were led by senior All-American Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.), who tallied the 30th triple-double of her career with 13 kills, 21 assists and a match-high 17 digs. Fellow senior Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) notched her 10th double-double of the season with 19 kills and 11 digs. Jaeckel registered a team-high 19.5 points.

 

Murphy and Jaeckel finish their careers with their names etched in the Florida record books. Murphy ranks seventh all-time in sets played (447), eighth in kills (1,306), eighth in assists (2,671), 10th in service aces (126) and 10th in points (1,567.5). Jaeckel is now fifth all-time in attacks (3, 405), seventh in kills (1,331), ninth in points (1,588.0) and 10th in block solos (58).

 

Defensively, redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) contributed 13 digs and a career-high eight assists against the Fighting Illini while sophomore setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dished a team-high 25 assists to move her into 11th all-time in program history already with 1,285 career assists.

 

Once again, Florida’s middles Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) and Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) were solid, combining for 18 kills and five blocks on the evening. The Gators were outhit for only the second time this season, .225-.338.

 

The Gators and Fighting Illini dueled for the first several points of the first frame, until Jaeckel fired a bullet into the Illinois defense to give Florida its first two-point lead, 4-2. Both teams continued to battle, tying the set another four times, before Smith ripped the seam of the block to give the Orange and Blue another two-point lead, 9-7.  The Fighting Illini slowly gained ground on the Gators, never falling more than two points behind, until Illinois took the lead from Florida at 16-15, forcing the Gators into a timeout. Both teams fought, but neither took more than a one-point lead over the other, until an Illinois service ace pushed the Fighting Illini ahead, 21-19. Back-to-back Florida errors and an Illinois kill set up the Fighting Illini at set point, 24-19. Florida went on a 3-0 run after a Mann-Wiggs block, but could not complete the comeback, dropping the first set, 25-22.

 

Illinois took an early 2-0 lead over the Orange and Blue to start the second stanza, taking a three-point lead at 6-3. An Unroe service ace changed the momentum of the set, tying the score at 7-7, and a Jaeckel attack gave Florida its first lead of the set, 8-7. A Brown service ace pushed the Gators ahead by two, and a Smith-Jaeckel block forced Illinois into a timeout with the Gators leading 11-8. The Fighting Illini battled their way back into the frame, taking the lead from the Gators at 20-19, but Florida kept tying the score and finally took the lead back at 23-22. Jaeckel hit around a block to put the Gators at set-point, 24-23, and an Unroe bump set to Jaeckel gave Florida the 25-23 victory, tying the match at one set apiece going into intermission.

 

The Gators fell behind the Fighting Illini, 2-0, to start the third set. Illinois forced the Gators into a timeout after taking a four-point lead over the Orange and Blue, 6-2. The Gators could not seem to find their rhythm, as Florida called a timeout with Illinois leading, 15-6. An Anderson-Murphy stuff block put the Gators within ten of the Fighting Illini at 20-10, but the Gators were unable to overcome the early deficit as they fell to the Fighting Illini, 25-14, in the third.

 

The Orange and Blue came out hot and took an early 3-1 lead. The two teams continued to battle with the Gators fighting for a fifth set and the Fighting Illini with their sights set on the Final Four. Illinois took its first two-point lead at 10-8 and forced the Gators into timeout at 12-9. Back-to-back Mann quick kills put Florida one point from tying the set, and an Illinois attack error secured the comeback, 15-15. However, the Orange and Blue were unable to take the lead, and were forced to call a timeout with Illinois leading at 20-17. Florida battled, but fell just short, dropping the fourth and final set, 25-20.

 

The Gators return five starters from this year’s roster and 10 players overall. Florida’s senior class finishes with a 108-18 record totaling three trips to the Sweet 16, two SEC titles and the 2011 run to the Elite Eight.

 

Florida Stat Leaders

-          Kills: Kristy Jaeckel (19)

-          Attacks: Kristy Jaeckel (40)

-          Hitting Percentage: Chloe Mann (.439)

-          Assists: Chanel Brown (25)

-          Digs: Kelly Murphy (17)

-          Service Aces: Brown/Pole/Unroe (1)

-          Block Solo: Chloe Mann/Stephanie Ferrell (1)

-          Block Assists: Mann/Smith/Wiggs (2)

-          Total Blocks: Chloe Mann (3)

 

NCAA Notables

-          The Gators fell in the Regional Finals for the sixth time in 13 appearances

-          Florida won the second set for its first set win in the Regional Finals since defeating Penn State, 3-0, in 2003

o    The Gators advanced to the National Finals that season (Fell 3-1 to Southern Cal)

-          The Orange and Blue were the only unseeded team to advance to the 2011 Regional Finals and the first since Iowa State in 2008 (fell 3-1 to Texas in the Regional Final)

 

A Triple of Triples

-          Kelly Murphy earned her third triple double in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, earning 21 assists, 17 digs and 13 kills

-          It is the 30th triple-double of her career

 

Jaeckel Doubles Up

-          Kristy Jaeckel earned her 10th double-double of the season and her second of the tournament, recording 19 kills and 11 digs

-          It is the seventh time this season that Murphy and Jaeckel both recorded double-doubles in the same match and the fourth time Murphy’s was a triple-double

 

Individual Bests

-          Taylor Unroe recorded a career-high eight assists in the match (previous was five)

 

Returning Gators in the Record Books

-          Sophomore Chanel Brown moved into 11th all-time in career assists, passing Lyra Vance ’87. She now has a total of 1,285.

 

Seniors in UF History

-          Kelly Murphy

o    7th in sets played (447)

o    8th in kills (1,306)

o    12th in attacks (2,729)

o    8th in assists (2,671)

o    10th in service aces (126)

o    14th in digs (959)

o    20th in block assists (253)

o    10th in points (1,567.5)

-          Kristy Jaeckel

o    13th in sets played (438)

o    7th in kills (1,331)

o    5th in attacks (3,405)

o    12th in service aces (121)

o    21st in digs (844)

o    10th in block solos (58)

o    9th in points (1,588.0)

-          Cassandra Anderson

o    6th in block assists (362)

o    8th in total blocks (402)

 

Milestones Met

-          Kelly Murphy became the eighth Gator in program history to record 1,300 career kills, finishing her campagn with a total of 1,306.

 

Record Updates

-          The Gators are now 815-175 (.823) all-time

-          Mary Wise is 740-138 (.843) in her career and 659-75 (.898) at Florida

-          The Orange and Blue are 56-22 (.718) in the NCAA Tournament, and 44-6 (.880) when hosting

-          Florida is 7-6 (.538) in the Regional Finals

-          The Gators are now 4-4 (.500) against Illinois and 4-1 (.800) under Coach Wise

-          UF is 399-57 (.875) at home, 340-22 (.939) with Coach Wise on the sideline

-          Florida is 651-73 (.899) while ranked and 108-85 (.560) vs. ranked opponents

 

Illinois Team Notes

-          The Fighting Illini hit .338 in the match, which is the highest any UF opponent has hit all season

o    They are just the second team to hit above .300 against the Gators (Georgia, .305)

-          Illinois earns its third trip to the Final Four in school history and first since 1988

o    UI is now 2-3 all-time in the NCAA Regional Finals

-          Illinois will play the winner of Pepperdine and USC on Dec. 15 in the National Semifinals in San Antonio, Texas

 

Illinois Individual Notes

-          Colleen Ward led the Fighting Illini with 23 kills in the match, earning a double-double with an additional 11 digs while adding two service aces

-          Michelle Bartsch narrowly missed a double-double with 12 kills and nine digs

-          Annie Luhrsen chipped in 51 assists on the night

-          Jennifer Beltran led the back row with 13 digs, and Rachel Feldman added an additional 11 to go along with two service aces

-          Anna Dorn and Liz McMahon held down the front row with a combined nine block assists (5-Dorn, 4-McMahon)

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